As the second half of the 2007 MLB season gets underway the Seattle Mariners appear to have joined the short list of contenders. Back in April, online sportsbook Bodog.com game the Mariners a 100/1 odds chance of winning the World Series. At the All-Star break, the Mariners had shrunk the odds of their winning the Fall-Classic down to 14/1. As of today, July 13, the club has inched within two full games of the Western Division leader Los Angeles Angels. Their 50-36 record is fifth best in the American League only three games back of the Boston Red Sox for the best record in baseball. If Seattle can equal its winning percentage (.576) of the season’s first half, they will end up with a 93 win season.
The shock of losing field manager Mike Hargrove in late June didn’t seem to faze the team as they won four of their last five games under interim manager John McLaren.
The Mariners starting rotation has been solid, posting a 31-31 overall record. Starters Jarrod Washburn (8-6), Miguel Batista (8-7), Felix Hernandez (5-4) and Horacio Ramirez (4-2) all have winning records this season and have been the driving force behind the Mariners success. The bullpen has been even better, posting an 18-5 record behind second-year lefty Eric O'Flaherty. O'Flaherty has paced the bullpen thus far, going 6-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 27 appearances. However, no one has been more impressive than All-Star closer J.J. Putz. Putz has been flawless, converting 24 straight save opportunities through the first half of the season. If there has been a disappointment in the rotation it’s been from free agent Jeff Weaver.
Weaver has been terrible posting a 2-6 won-loss record with a 6.34 ERA over 12 starts. After going 0-6 to begin the season he did not pick up his first victory until June 20th. The right hander has only made it past the fifth inning five times this season and has been dealing with control issues since April. It would not be surprising if he Mariners would unload Weaver prior to the trade deadline.
There is no doubt the teams MVP has been Ichiro Suzuki, called an artist with the bat by St Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa following the All-Star game in which he hit the games only inside the park home run. Suzuki is the best pure-hitter in baseball and at the leadoff spot has given the Mariners a sure thing on the base paths. Suzuki has already enjoyed a 25-game and 19-game hitting streak this year, and has hit safely in 73 of his 85 games this season. Aside from his prowess at the plate, Suzuki has developed into one of the best center fielders in the game, earning him the starting nod in this year's All-Star game. Suzuki makes everybody else in the order better and has reaped the benefits of a solid supporting cast, scoring a team-best 61 runs this season.
If the Mariners can survive the month of July and keep the pressure on the Angels anything can happen down the stretch. At 14/1 odds, the Mariners look to be a pretty good bet.